Someone in my family has just gone vegan/vegetarian, help!
When a family member or friend changes something that you are used to seeing them do such as eating, it may come as a bit of a shock. Food is something we consume multiple times a day, it’s tied to cultural traditions and celebrations. You might feel as though they are rejecting an important part of your relationship with them. You might be concerned they aren’t going to get enough nutrition. Maybe you can’t relate to them anymore as their beliefs are now different to your own. Rest assured that the person you care about it still the same person, but they’ve just undergone a moral change to their life, which will be difficult for them as well as you. Think of it from their point of view, they now need to learn how to eat in an entirely different way as they’ve always done. This learning experience can be daunting for them and the more support they have from their loved ones, the easier it will be for them to transition into this new way of living.
Why do people go vegetarian or vegan?
Imagine you have a pet dog. You love this pet dog. You feed him, take him for walks, cuddle him. You have an emotional bond to this animal, you care about their wellbeing. Imagine someone takes your dog and turns him into hamburgers. Does this make you feel outraged or upset? Hold onto that feeling - that’s how it feels for a vegetarian or vegan when they think about pigs, cows, chickens etc that are killed for food. Vegans and vegetarians feel empathy towards all animals, not just dogs or cats and once they’ve had that lightbulb moment in which they realize all animals can suffer, that’s when they decide they can’t eat them anymore. Many people also choose to stop eating animal products due to concern over the environment or their personal health but these are less common reasons.
What can you do?
Most likely this change has been triggered by viewing a documentary, news program or an experience with an animal. Even if you don’t agree, listen to what they have to say as most likely they are upset about what they’ve seen. They will probably want to show you something they’ve watched on TV or the Internet. Be open to it. The more you understand why they feel the way they do, the easier you can relate to them. Don’t ridicule them or make them feel like they’ve made a bad decision, this can cause them to feel isolated and distant and can affect your relationship with them.
What do you cook for them now?
One way is too cook vegetarian dishes and then just add the meat to the dish after you’ve served those people that aren’t eating it. There are plenty of alternatives for things like sausages or burgers - you can cook these items separately and then make the vegetables or salads all veg-friendly so everyone can enjoy them. As a family you might decide to have designated "veg only days" when you try out new recipes. One of the biggest benefits of going vegetarian is that you get to try foods that you normally wouldn’t eat, you might be pleasantly surprised. Keep an open mind and support them and hopefully your relationship stays strong.